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December 2017 Newsletter (click here for pdf version)

A note from our president…
During this first full year that I’ve been president of the board, Books for a Better World donated a collection of 45-50 books to over 100 schools and libraries in Central America. We went to many new schools that had no children’s books before we arrived, but now have colorful and engaging books to help the children learn to enjoy reading. We hope to return to these schools over the next four years to help their libraries grow and foster an environment of creativity and learning. We could not do this without our partners in each region, including Proyecto Aldea Global in Honduras, Libros Para Niños in Nicaragua, Contextos in El Salvador, and the Reyes family in Guatemala.

But most importantly, we could not do this without you. Every $5 you donate is another book for a child to love. You might also consider “adopting” a library for $350, where you sponsor a school library and receive a detailed report about the specific school from our travel volunteers. Books are the gateway to the world and a stepping-stone to higher education. Your donations go directly to buying books and putting them into the hands of children who will cherish them. You can also help by sharing this newsletter with family and friends, following us on Facebook and Instagram, or becoming a volunteer to share your skills and enthusiasm with Books for a Better World.

- Kira Gartell, President, Board of Directors 

Biblioteca Purulhá
High in the mountain town of Purulhá, Baja Verapáz, Guatemala, there is a group of book lovers that is making a big difference in its community. This summer, Books for a Better World volunteers Bethany Castillo and Allen Beach had the tremendous opportunity of delivering a box of books to the Biblioteca “Lic. Bernardo Lemus Mendoza” library. Situated on the second floor of a bank—right next to the town center—it was clear that this library was a hub of activity.

Most impressive about this library are the many ways they work to improve their community. In addition to providing access to books for the entire community, they have a program to reduce waste and build homes for families in need. Kids collect plastic grocery bags, tightly pack them into plastic soda bottles, and create brick “ladrillos”, which are fastened together to build eco-homes. This wonderful initiative teaches kids to not litter, and shows them the big impact their little hands can make to clean up their own community.

You can learn more about this wonderful library on Facebook: @BibliotecaBernardoLemusMendoza

Beautiful Views and an Excitement to Read!
Two years ago BBW volunteers visited a school high up in the mountains near Libertad, Honduras. It took more than an hour to get there on curvy mountain roads, but the views of lush green forests and coffee farms were breathtaking. This two-room school had 47 students in grades 1-6, but no books other than textbooks. We brought a box full of children's books in Spanish, including a book with beautiful photographs of animals, a book by Dr. Seuss, and one with Dora the Explorer. The students had never seen these kinds of books, as the closest public library is many hours away. They were delighted to hear us read a few books and were excited to select a book to read themselves.

BBW volunteers returned this past summer. The books previously provided were very well used and well loved—some books were held together with tape. The inspirational teacher told us that all of her students could read, calling on a third grade boy to come up front and read a page from a new book. He read easily and fluently, even the hard words! We all clapped, and the teacher beamed with pride.

The students eagerly described their favorite books and were very excited to get more. When it was time to go, one little girl came up to a volunteer and said, “Thanks for the books, I love them,” and gave one volunteer a hug. Pretty soon, all the children joined her in a happy group hug for all the volunteers.

2017 By the Numbers
$22,285.81 in Total Spending:
85.1% Books 
10.6% Shipping/Packing/Delivery 
2.6% School supplies 
1.7% Administrative costs 
13 weeks of travel 
8 travel volunteers 
4 countries visited 
Over 6000 books were delivered 
Over 100 sites received new books 
Over 100 individual donors. 
Will you be the next one?

None of this is possible without you…
We want to sincerely thank all of our donors for their generosity in contributing to our organization. Without you, we wouldn't be able to bring the joy of reading to so many children. As you can see below, your donations go directly toward books and school supplies for these deserving children. Please consider giving again to help us to continue inspiring children to reach for their dreams. Click here to donate, and share the love of reading with a child in need.

Board of Directors
Kira Gartell President 
Kate Eaton Vice President 
Allen Beach Secretary 
Suzanne Perkett Treasurer 
Alice Gartell Book Chair 
Wendy Finlayson Education Chair 
Lisa Schuring Volunteer Chair 
Lauren Slocum Fundraising Chair 
Dayna Tanner Board Member
Kae Robb Founder

2016 Books for a Better World Newsletter

Introducing Our New Board President, Kira Gartell

2016 has brought a lot of great changes for Books for a Better World. We gained new board members and had a peaceful transition of power as Alice stepped down and I stepped up to take on the role of president. We also did some reorganization of the board in order to
make us a more efficient organization. As a travel volunteer since 2004 and a board member since 2008, I am wholeheartedly dedicated to supporting our primary mission of literacy in rural Central America. My goals for the next two years include increasing the number of books we donate and continually supporting the directors and teachers throughout the year in order to help them use the donated books more effectively. But to do this, we need your help. Every $5 you donate is another book for a child to love. Books are the gateway to the world and a stepping stone to higher education. Your donations go directly to buying books and putting them into the hands of children who will cherish them. If you are not able to donate money at this time, please share this newsletter with your family and friends, “like” our Facebook page, follow us on Instagram, or become a volunteer and see how your skills can help Books for a Better World.

- Kira Gartell, President, Board of Directors 

More Than Just Kids’ Books

Donating children’s books is about 95% of what Books for a Better World does. Recently, however, we have been including a
few special items in our deliveries – books for the teachers to enjoy and school supplies for the students. Every year we ask the
directors of the schools what else they need besides books. Overwhelmingly they say...pencils! Students use their pencils
down to the tiniest nub even long after the erasers have been used up. So, we started buying school supplies (pencils, sharpeners,
erasers, and crayons) and sending them down with our travel volunteers in their suitcases. This has become a very cheap yet effective way to make a big difference. These are items that neither the school nor the students can afford to buy themselves.

While visiting a school, our volunteers read stories to the children and will often ask for volunteers to help read a sentence or two. The students are usually shy to volunteer at first, but as soon as we show them their reward – a shiny new pencil – we get bombarded with smiley-faced readers! We then leave extra school supplies with the teachers for them to use as a class, or to give to the students they know have the most need.

Most of the people we work with in Central America are super dedicated and hardworking teachers in a fairly thankless job. This year we wanted to show them our appreciation by bringing books for them to read. We brought variety of higher level books and let each teacher choose a book or two for themselves, with the idea that they would pass the book along to another teacher once they finished reading it. Encouraging a teacher’s love of reading will undoubtedly help the children, and we hope to continue this in years to come.

Battle of the Books

New this year is Battle of the Books! Battle of the Books is a reading competition started by volunteers Suzanne and Lola Perkett in Evansville, Indiana in order to spread awareness for Books for a Better World and to encourage literacy in local communities. Groups of fourth and fifth graders are invited to read from a variety of 35 hand-picked, high-quality books throughout the school year, and culminates in a two-day series of fun team battles in April.

During the battles, teams answer questions about the books. At the end of the competition, to celebrate every reader’s participation, there is an exciting Readers Celebration ceremony for our Parade of Readers, who enter the celebration sporting their team spirit with outfits, signs and mascots. The teams with the highest scores from preliminary rounds face off in a championship and are recognized for their high achievements.

In the future, we hope to bring Battle of the Books to other cities in the U.S., as well as to our schools in Central America. Twenty-one teams registered for our first annual competition in Evansville, and we are excited to get started!

2016 By the Numbers
$29,000 in Total Spending: 
84.8% Books 
13.1% Shipping/Packing/Delivery 
2.1% Administrative costs 
16 weeks of travel 
8 travel volunteers 
4 countries visited 
Over 6000 books were delivered 
Over 100 sites received new books 

2015 Books for a Better World Newsletter

Books for a Better World is driven by the knowledge that literacy can change lives. Witnessing the joy our book deliveries bring is a privilege that motivates us further. We would like to dedicate this newsletter to a few spectacular people who make us want to do even more. They have all shown us what can be accomplished by an individual who is determined to make a difference. We hope the stories of these Education inspire you as well. Every donation helps. Every donation changes lives.

Education Hero: Hector Mencia 
- by Lisa Schuring

Fifty-year-old Hector Mencia grew up in a large family living in a champa, a small home made of sticks and mud, surrounded by coffee and plantain fields in the lush mountains above La Libertad, Honduras. Hector loved learning and was determined to go to elementary school. Despite the fact that his family, like so many others, lacked the resources, Hector sold bread before and after school to pay the fees. Hector continued his studies at a colegio (high school) by selling rawhide and working in a tannery, all while keeping up with his studies and maintaining excellent grades.
After high school, Hector’s passion for education left him longing to study at the University of Honduras. This time, his determination led him to the office of the President of Honduras, Policarpo Paz Garcia. Hector bravely asked him for a scholarship to attend the university. When President Garcia asked the young Hector who had sponsored him and helped him gain access to his office, Hector held out his high school transcripts and responded, “I am sponsoring myself!”

Impressed by his excellent academic record and gumption, the president gave Hector a full scholarship to the university, where he studied early education. Upon graduation, Hector’s family sold bread and other goods in order to buy him a new suit, tie, and shoes. His hard work won him the privilege of teaching third grade for many years, earning an average of $250-$350 a month, a typical teacher salary in Honduras.
Currently, Hector and his wife Carmen, a kindergarten director, work together with many organizations to advocate for children, teachers and education. Traveling rugged and remote mountain roads by motorcycle, Hector visits several one-room schools a day, tirelessly working to mentor, train and support the teachers and their students.
He loves engaging the children with animated storytelling and book readings, hoping to spark in them a love of books and literacy. Hector’s dedicated service has left a positive impact on countless children, families, and teachers in his community and country. Hector is a true Education Hero.

It’s Not Always Easy
- by Alice Finn Gartell

During 2015, BBW travel volunteers delivered thousands of books to rural schools in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. As always, it was very rewarding, but not always easy.
Our volunteers rode in the back of a rickety truck on curvy, bumpy dirt roads. They traveled in crowded buses with chickens, piglets, and an occasional baby plopped in their laps. They even delivered on horseback. Some of these villages had no electricity, but now they have books!

Flexibility was required. After traveling all the way to Central America from the U.S., a few volunteers discovered the government unexpectedly closed all the public schools for a week. At other times, the volunteers read with students on the side of the road when a school let out early or started late.
The most inspirational Education Heroes were the dedicated teachers working under very difficult conditions with few resources. Because of the distance, a few teachers stayed with local families during the week and only went home on weekends. Many had a long commute, involving several bus rides, and then a steep climb up a muddy dirt path.
Some schools without electricity were very dark on cloudy days. Those with tin roofs were very noisy in the frequent tropical rain. Most of the schools had no or very few storybooks prior to our visits. One teacher had been teaching 14 years and was overwhelmed at receiving the first storybooks she had ever had for her class. All were grateful for the pens, pencils and crayons we brought.
Magic happens for children when interesting books about dinosaurs, Curious George, and fairy tales are combined with dedicated teachers.Thank you for helping these Education Heroes and their students have access to books!

Education Heroes: Lisa Schuring & Suzanne Perkett

Two of our Education Heroes are now new members of of our Board of Directors. This year, both of these remarkable women took it upon themselves to raise much needed money for Books for a Better World. Both were successful beyond their wildest dreams.

Lisa Schuring, an ESL Technician at Sage Creek Elementary in Utah, created a “Walk for Wishes” fundraiser, in which she inspired students to obtain pledges for laps around their school. With an initial goal of raising $350 to fund a library, Lisa’s enthusiasm spread to the entire community.
The students raised over $2,800 and prompted the local Walmart to contribute $5,000. Lisa also traveled to Honduras and Nicaragua to deliver books, sharing photos of the fundraiser with students in Central America, allowing them to connect with US students back home.


New board member Suzanne Perkett worked fundraising magic in her hometown of Evansville, Indiana. Her work as one of our travel volunteers spurred Altrusa International, a service organization that emphasizes literacy, to donate the proceeds from their spring style show to BBW.

Suzanne also spoke at the event, inspiring the 100 women present, with her stories of the joy of bringing books in Spanish to students of Central America. The event raised $3,000 for our grateful organization.

We honor everything these women have done to give students access to the wonder, comfort and knowledge that can be found inside a good book!